- The U.S. Center for SafeSport leveled a lifetime ban against Olympic figure skating coach Richard Callaghan on Wednesday after a former skater accused Callaghan of sexually molesting him beginning at age 14.
- Callaghan was suspended from the Olympics in 2018 for nearly 20 years following an older allegation of sexual misconduct.
- The allegations against Callaghan have stoked comparisons to USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and skater John Coughlin, prompting questions about how Olympic-linked organizations deal with sexual misconduct allegations.
Banned from the Olympics
The U.S. Center for Safesport banned famed Olympics figure skating coach Richard Callaghan for life on Wednesday over accusations of sexual molestation.
The organization made the decision after one of Callaghan’s former students filed a lawsuit claiming that Callaghan sexually molested him when he was 14-years-old.
U.S. Figure Skating then followed suit and banned Callaghan from any kind of skating-related activity in the U.S.
Callaghan, 73, is most known for training skaters Tara Lipinski and Todd Eldredge. Notably, Callaghan oversaw Lipinski’s training when she won the gold medal in ladies’ singles figure skating during the 1998 Nagano Olympics. He also oversaw Eldredge’s six U.S. national championship titles, as well as a world championship title.
The allegations were brought by former skater Adam Schmidt, who is also suing U.S. Figure Skating for inaction related to previous complaints made before his alleged molestations. The lawsuit alleges Callaghan molested Schmidt multiple times between 1999 and 2001.
“Today’s announcement is a major victory for all who’ve suffered abuses by the former legend of figure skating, Mr. Callaghan,” Schmidt told ABC News. “Now he will forever be known as the predator who delivered medals to a corrupt organization who accepted them in exchange for the safety and protection of children. US Figure Skating created that culture of abuse that lasted decades and today is the first of many victories to come in reversing that. USFS is officially on notice.”
The ban comes after SafeSport suspended Callaghan from Olympic activity for nearly 20 years after former student Craig Maurizi filed a second misconduct complaint against him in January 2018.
Callaghan has denied the allegations and was first suspended in March 2018, but he will not be able to appeal the permanent ban. According to Callaghan’s attorney, he is “subject to a lifetime ban without due process.”
In 1999, Maurizi filed his first complaint against the skating coach. The allegation, filed to U.S. Figure Skating, details the nature of Maurizi’s relationship with Callaghan, dating back to 1976 when he first began taking lessons from him at the age of 13.
Two years later, Maurizi said Callaghan began acting sexually inappropriate around him, and Maurizi said when he turned 18, Callaghan initiated a sexual relationship. That relationship allegedly continued in an on-again-off-again fashion until 1997.
“At the time, I thought the sex was consensual,” Maurizi told the New York Times in 1999. “Now, when I look back, I don’t think it was consensual. I don’t care how old a student is, whether it’s a boy or a girl, a coach should never have sex with a student. The coach is the person the athlete looks up to for leadership and to be a role model. I don’t think coaches understand the influence they can exert over students. People need to be more aware of this.”
The claims were later dismissed by U.S. Figure Skating and the Professional Skater’s Association because they had been filed more than 60 days from when the alleged abuse occurred.
Within the time-frame of Callaghan and Maurizi’s relationship, The New York Times reported at least five other sexual misconduct claims dating back to the 1980s. The claims range from inappropriate sexual comments to unwarranted sexual advances such as Callaghan exposing himself in a hotel.
“I feel finally vindicated,” Maurizi told the New York Times following Callaghan’s ban this week. “This guy’s a monster. This man has ruined the lives and careers of many people. I believe he should be punished to whatever extent is possible.”
Olympic Organizations’ Handling of Allegations
The allegations against Callaghan are the latest in a series of sexual misconduct allegations against people connected to Olympic athletes.
In 2015, USA Gymnastics broke ties with sports doctor Larry Nassar, and the following year, one of his patients filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse. In all, more than 250 women and one man accused Nassar of sexual abuse, many of his patients being underage at the times of their assault.
Nassar pleaded guilty in three different trials, admitting to the molestation of 10 accusers. The 56-year-old is now serving a federal conviction of 60 years and a state conviction of 40 to 175 to years.
In December, U.S. Figure Skating issued a restriction notice to figure skater John Coughlin in relation to unspecified allegations. On January 17, U.S. Figure Skating suspended him, and the following day, he committed suicide.
Since his death, more women have stepped forward, including bronze medalist Ashley Wagner and his former skating partner Bridget Namiotka.
SafeSport later released a statement saying it had uncovered “a culture in figure skating that allowed grooming and abuse to go unchecked for too long.”
This month, U.S. Figure Skating also released a statement saying the organization does not tolerate sex crimes.
“Recent news reports regarding allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in our sport have been heartbreaking,” the statement reads. “We support all survivors, and we encourage all victims of abuse to come forward and report it to law enforcement and the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating.”
Many, however, have criticized organizations connected to the Olympics, claiming they have been slow to act in situations involving sexual abuse.
“This should have been done in the ’90s when USFS first knew,” Schmidt’s attorney John Manly told USA Today. “It’s good news but small comfort to those Callaghan hurt. Clearly this move is in response to the horrible press USFS received in response to Adam Schmidt’s filing. You shouldn’t have to file a lawsuit to protect kids from child molesters in Olympic sports.”
Manly argued that because U.S. Figure Skating did not act in 1999 when it received Maurizi’s first complaint, it enabled Callaghan to continue coaching, thus leading to Schmidt’s alleged molestations.
U.S. Figure Skating has defended itself, saying that following Maurizi’s original complaint, it examined its procedures into reporting cases of abuse and updated misconduct policy in May 2000.
Ring Camera Hacker Harasses 8-Year-Old Girl Through Speaker
- An 8-year-old girl was taunted by a male voice when a Mississippi family’s Ring security camera was hacked.
- The hacker played eerie music and encouraged the child to use a racial slur and destroy her room.
- Ring has claimed the incident didn’t occur because of a breach in their security system but rather because the family didn’t set up two-factor authentication.
- Several more Ring camera hackings have been reported in the past few weeks.
A hacker tapped into a Mississippi family’s home security camera last week and used the speaker feature to talk to an 8-year-old girl.
The video footage shows the child, Alyssa LeMay, walking into her bedroom after hearing eerie music from inside. Blaring from the camera’s speaker is Tiny Tim’s rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” a song that was famously featured in the horror movie “Insidious.”
As Alyssa paces around trying to identify the source of the noise, the music stops and a voice comes from the camera, pushing her to say the n-word.
“C’mon girl, can you say the magic word? N—–,” the voice says to Alyssa, who is white.
She repeatedly asks out loud who is talking to her.
“I’m your best friend,” the voice responds. “I’m Santa Claus.”
At one point the hacker also tries to coax Alyssa to destroy her room, telling her, “You can do whatever you want right now. You can mess up your room. You can break your TV.”
The little girl screams for her mother, who was out of the house at the time running an errand. Her father was home and rushed to the room to unplug the camera.
Security Precautions Gone Wrong
Ashley LeMay, Alyssa’s mother, was horrified when she saw what happened. The 27-year-old had bought a pair of Ring cameras to install in the bedrooms of her four children, per a fellow mother’s recommendation.
Ring’s indoor cameras have elevated features intended for security, including night-vision and a two-way talk system. LeMay made the purchase on Black Friday, hoping to help her children feel safe as she works overnight shifts in a hospital.
The camera initially was a positive asset to the home, but just a few days after its installation, on Dec. 4, that sense of safety was abruptly violated.
“I did the exact opposite of adding another security measure,” LeMay told The Washington Post on Thursday. “I put them at risk and there’s nothing I can do to really ease their mind. I can’t tell them I know who it is. I can’t tell them that they’re not going to show up at our house in the middle of the night.”
When asked about the incident, Ring released a statement to WMC5, claiming that the hack wasn’t a result of a breach in their security system but rather it happened because two-factor authorization was not set up by the family.
“Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services,” the company said. “As a precaution, we highly and openly encourage all Ring users to enable two-factor authentication on their Ring account, add Shared Users (instead of sharing login credentials), use strong passwords, and regularly change their passwords.”
LeMay felt frustrated by Ring’s lack of answers when she contacted them.
“To be honest, it felt like they were trying to place the blame on me,” she told The Washington Post. “As a mother, I already feel guilty enough that I let this happen to my family… There’s just no need for that.”
Ring states that their mission is to “reduce crime in neighborhoods,” but the digital age has brought in new ways for hackers to virtually break into a home and cross lines.
“What’s so scary to us is that this person did not care that it was a young child,” LeMay said to The Washington Post.
Virginia Man Gifts $12,000 Worth of Toys to Low-Income Children
- Virginia local Adam Armstrong gifted $12,000 worth of toys to children living in low-income apartment complexes.
- His first stop was Harris Gardens, where he lived as a young man about 15-years ago after serving a short sentence in jail.
- After making a successful life for himself, Armstrong decided he wanted to give back.
Virginia Man Returns to His Roots
Adam Armstrong, a 35-year-old Virginia native, returned to his old apartment complex in Harrisonburg to hand out early Christmas presents to the children who live there now.
Armstrong rolled up to Harris Gardens Apartments in a moving truck on Dec. 7 wearing jeans and a Santa hat. When he arrived, he handed out bikes, stuffed animals, Nerf guns, and other toys. The total cost of the truckload was about $12,000, he told The Washington Post.
Armstrong once resided in that same low-income complex about 15 years ago. He went to live there after serving a three-month stint in jail for selling marijuana when he was 18.
After his release, Armstrong decided that he needed to turn his life around. He went on to get into several business endeavors, including working as a loan officer and buying and flipping houses.
Once he had saved some money, he decided he wanted to give back. He has been donating toys to various organizations since 2013.
“I remember government housing and a lot of poverty, crimes, drugs, violence and things of that nature,” Armstrong told NBC News about Harrisonburg. “Every time I see kids, I know it’s not their fault where they are.”
Giving Back to Children
When Armstrong approached Harris Gardens property manager Sara Lewis-Weeks and told her he was looking to donate toys to the kids, she was skeptical.
She had seen a lot of people make false promises of this nature before and wasn’t sure that he would follow through, she told the Post.
But sure enough, Armstrong made good on his promise and handed out gifts to about 50 children and their parents.
“He didn’t miss anybody,” Lewis-Weeks told NBC. “His heart was truly in this.”
After Armstrong visited Harris Gardens, he visited three more low-income developments nearby, and afterward, he donated the leftover toys to the Salvation Army.
“The kids were so innocent and sweet,” Armstrong told the Post. “They’d say, ‘Thank you.’ Some would be shy or reluctant. You can’t put a price on looking at these kids’ happy faces.”
Houston Man Saves Neighbor’s Dog After Leash Gets Caught in Moving Elevator
- Johnny Mathis, a man from Houston, Texas, saved his neighbor’s dog on Monday after its leash got caught in closed elevator doors.
- Mathis sprung into action, removing the leash from the dog’s neck as the elevator moved to a higher floor.
- Apartment security cameras captured video of the incident, which Mathis posted to his Twitter account.
- The video has received much attention online, with many praising Mathis and some criticizing the dog owner.
A Heroic Act
A Houston man rescued his neighbor’s small dog on Monday after its leash got caught in a moving elevator. A video of the incident, caught by their apartment’s security footage, has now gone viral.
In the video, 27-year-old Johnny Mathis can be seen exiting the elevator as a woman and her Pomeranian walk past him toward its doors. Mathis rounds the corner but backpedals when he sees that the dog was left behind.
He takes tentative steps toward the dog and then quickly lunges into action when he realizes the leash around the dog’s neck was stuck in the lift.
“Instinct just kicked in, I just grabbed that leash,” Mathis told CNN. “There was so much fur, that’s why it took me a bit to get that lever off of the collar and when I did, I let go, you could see that leash just shoot off to the top of the elevator.”
Mathis recounted the story on his Twitter account, where he also posted the security footage and described the dog owner’s panic.
“She started screaming as soon as the door shut and was bawling her eyes out when it came back down,” he wrote in another post. “She thought the worst.”
Mathis told CNN that the woman was very grateful but visibly shaken when she returned to the ground floor.
“I think she just said ‘thank you’ and we hugged but she was just so overcome with emotion,” he said.
He expressed his gratitude that he was in the right place at the right time, and hopes that the situation can be taken as a lesson.
Mathis’s post of the video has been viewed millions of times and he has received much praise in response.
You’re a hero sir.— LooHoo (@abbyloo) December 11, 2019
Wow, this is amazing! 😭💙💜— Chy (@TapeFlip) December 11, 2019
You are fcking awesome.
You are a very kind young man, and it’s tremendously fortunate that you think and react so quickly. I don’t have to know you to be proud of you. 🙂— DrM (@DrMagnolias) December 12, 2019
Some have hurled a lot of criticism at the dog owner, accusing her of negligence.
Great job on the rescue. Irresponsible, lazy owner…..— Bill Waterbury (@billdubs) December 11, 2019
I hate retractable leashes and I hate bad owners.— Mike 👻 (@nodurheadtothis) December 12, 2019
Mathis defended the unidentified woman in another post on Wednesday night.
Others have also been more forgiving of the dog owner, calling it an honest mistake.
It clearly was one of those freak accidents.She didn’t know the door was gonna close that quick. People are always so quick to judge. Thank you sir for your quick thinking and action.Thank god for good people out there with a big heart like you. God Bless you and Merry Christmas— Diann (@DiannKittle) December 12, 2019
those doors closed abnormally fast for being elevator doors, as well. i hold no blame to her, only hope it teaches her to pay more attention (plus, ditch the retractable leash)— 𝚟𝚒𝚎 𝚛𝚘𝚝𝚜 #deplatformpredators (@vierotz) December 12, 2019